The Saints have freed up temporary cap space by guaranteeing addition money and prorating its cap hit into the future for four of veterans. WR Marques Colston, RG Jahri Evans, LG Ben Grubbs and ILB David Hawthorne have seen their contracts made short-term friendly and long-term secure.
With these deals, the Saints freed up roughly $10 million in 2013 cap space.
The front office has used the same trick multiple times in over the past two offseasons, in fact, the Saints had Evans to make the same modification in 2012. Evans' base salary of roughly $7 million was reduced to $4 million for 2013, with the difference paid out immediately as a signing bonus and thus - according to the salary cap - prorated across the remaining four years of the deal through 2016.
The extra $3 million in cap space now gets the Saints closer, as they were an estimated $15 million over the cap, which comes back into effect on the afternoon of March 12, when free agency opens. That move also increases Evans' cap hit in later years, pushing his cap hit higher and higher as Evans ages.
The Saints did the same with MLB Curtis Lofton earlier this month.
For the player, its hardly a difficult call - more un-guaranteed annual salary is converted to guaranteed money.
The Saints will make more moves to get under the cap and free up room to sign free agents and rookies, though the team won't be very active in either arena. With limited cap space and only five draft picks, the Saints face a defensive scheme transition and a contract negotiation with left tackle Jermon Bushrod. TE Jimmy Graham will also be receiving a big payday soon.
Affecting the negotiations - believed to be underway now - for Bushrod is the new deal for Giants left tackle Will Beatty, 28, who signed a new five year deal worth upwards of $38 million. That contract will no doubt set a market for Bushrod, just seven months older than Beatty. Bushrod however has been the starter for four seasons, while Beatty has only been a starter for two, one of which shortened by injury.
The Saints are also negotiating pay cuts with defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma, key veteran leadership cogs in the defense but whose skillset may be poor fits for the Saints' new 3-4. Declining Smith is slated to count a whopping $14.5 million against the cap in 2013, second most of the team behind Drew Brees. Vilma will count $8.6 million and Roman Harper will count $7.1 million against the 2013 cap.